This past Sunday turned out to be the first day since early January when I picked up more than one year-bird in a single day and also saw the return of Dave! We started out at Page Ave, waiting for persons to show up for the Ecology Walk. Due to the cold weather, snow and high tide, no one showed, so it was off to do some birding on our own.
The first stop was the Cemetery, where a slow walk through eight inches of snow turned up along eight species of birds. Due to the snow, it the walk was slow, so after about a half hour, we got out of there. The next quick stop was Wolfe's Pond for a look through the gulls. Only ring-billed and herring gulls were on the iced pond today. We stopped at Blue Heron Park to use the bathroom, but it turned into a forty-five minutes stop when I started chatting with the staff in the Nature Center.
As we were leaving, my father called to report, "a small dark duck with a white spot on it's head, near Harold and Hylan". Since we were right there, I told him we'd check it out. A couple of passes up and down Hylan in the general vicinity of Harold turned up no ducks on the side of the road. Hopefully, the little duck was able to take flight again once it realized it lands on a major roadway. On to Arden Ave.
We parked in the same general location where I'd seen the redpolls last week, but there were no finches around today. So, we went to scan the bay for anything. First, as tradition has it, we found Lester, our seasonal resident Lesser Black-backed Gull hanging out on "his beach" just east of Arden Ave. After looking at Lester, the scanning commenced. Almost simultaneously, we came upon an interesting duck just off shore from Lester. We got into a better position to get out of the sun, and relocated the bird when she surfaced from a dive. After looking at her for a minute, we could see that it was a female WHITE-WINGED SCOTER! Year-Bird!
After the excitement was over, it was time to head to Great Kills. The snow from Saturday's storm covered the fields were the snow bunting and lark usually hang out, but luck was on Dave's side (in terms of being able to get photographs). Just before reaching the turn-in for the parking lot, I noticed the large bare patch in the snow between the road and the parking lot was covered with birds! Even with naked eye I saw these were the snow bunting. So, I pulled into the parking lot and carefully rolled up on the bunting, with Dave's side of the car closest to the birds. He was elated to use his new dSLR camera to get super closer-up shots of both bunting and lark! Score!
After the photo excitement was over, we headed down to the mud flats. On our second stop to scan, Dave says, "Hey, I think I have a pipit on the flats". Quickly, I got my binoculars on the birds and indeed, it was a pipit, CHECK! Year-bird two for the day! We looked around at the gulls and waterfowls, but just the usual suspects. Then, as we started back to the car, I spotted a small raptor in a tree at the edge of the phragmite marsh. Neither of us could tell what it was, but based on size and shape, we were thinking merlin. Changing our position resulted in missing when the bird took off, darn it, so we continued back to the car. Right as we opened the doors to the car, a merlin came in to chase the snow bunting... CHECK! Year-bird number three for the day!
Our last stop of the day was Fort Wadsworth in hopes of finding the Iceland gull for Dave. Unfortunately, it was in not to be. Although, there were numerous gulls along the beach, there wasn't an Iceland gull. So, with three year-birds for the day, it was time to head home... hopefully next week will bring some early migrants and the ponds will open back up again!